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by Cathe Neukum (Director)
Gaiam, 2008
Review by Beth T. Cholette, Ph.D. on Mar 21st 2009

Mayo Clinic Wellness Solutions for IBS

This DVD is part of a series from lifestyle company Gaiam and the Mayo Clinic, an integrated group practice treating every medical condition.  The DVDs in this Wellness Solutions series take an Integrative Medicine approach to various conditions; as explained by Dr. Brent Bauer, Director of the Mayo Clinic's Complimentary and Integrative Medicine Program, this includes a combination of traditional and alternative healing methods with exercise and diet to produce relief.  The Main Menu of the DVD reads as follows:  Chapter 1, What is Integrative Medicine? (a 4-minute overview by Dr. Bauer); Chapter 2, Understanding Your Condition:  IBS; Chapter 3, Action Plan; and Chapter 4, Behind the Scenes (includes About Gaiam, About the Mayo Clinic, Meet the Mayo Clinic Doctors, Resources, Credits).

The heart of this DVD lies in Chapters 2 and 3.  The second chapter features several Mayo Clinic gastrointestinologists:  Doctors Nicolas Talley, G. Richard Locke, and Paul Limburg.  Together, they provide a 26-minute overview of IBS, including important facts and common myths.  The doctors emphasize that although as many 1 in 5 people suffer from Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS), less than half seek treatment, mainly due to embarrassment about the related symptoms.  One of the main myths addressed is that fiber is helpful to everyone; the doctors acknowledge that for some, fiber can actually worsen symptoms.  Other issues covered during this segment include the role of medications and probiotics, the use of alternative therapies such as acupuncture, and tips for relieving symptoms, such as basic dietary advice and relaxation strategies.

Chapter 3, the Action Plan, is further broken down into three segments:  Eat Well to Feel Well (Nutrition Options for IBS), Soothing Therapy (Meditation for IBS), and Soothing Therapy (Yoga for IBS).  For the first 11 minutes of the nutrition segment, a doctor leads you through "smart shopping" at the grocery store; this information is common to all of the Mayo Clinic Wellness Solutions DVDs.  The next 4 minutes feature a registered dietitian explaining three strategies for changing diet and eating habits to improve IBS symptoms:  1) eating more plant-based foods, 2) eating smaller meals at regular times throughout the day, and 3) drinking more liquids (at least eight 8-ounce glasses per day). 

The meditation and yoga segments are led by renowned yoga instructor Rodney Yee.  For the meditation portion, Yee is alone, and he instructs via voiceover for two separate 5-minute meditation programs.  The first of these is a seated meditation.  Yee has you set up seated on a cushion in cobbler's pose (soles of feet together), with your back resting against a wall and blocks under your knees for support.  The focus here is on the ease of the breath through the body and the digestive system.  For the restorative meditation, you are lying over a blanket folded as a bolster, with a small towel placed under your head as a pillow; Yee also uses a strap to hold the legs together in a knees up position.  In this session, he encourages you to concentrate on noticing any areas of restriction and releasing tension.  For the 25-minute yoga practice, Yee is instructing live, and he is accompanied by two female students; blankets and blocks are used as props.  The practice begins in down dog; you hold this pose before walking forward into a standing forward bend.  From there, Yee guides his students into two slow rounds of modified sun salutations.  Next, he moves into two full rounds which include chair and triangle poses.  Coming to the floor, you'll start seated in hero's pose, then move into a flow from staff pose to cobbler's pose, ending with boat pose, a seated twist, and a variation on Sage 3 pose.  Following this, you'll do two restorative postures:  child's pose lying forward over a blanket used as a bolster, and cobbler's pose lying back over the blanket bolster.  Yee concludes the practice with a short relaxation and a final seated meditation.

All of the Wellness Solutions DVDs, which are packaged in Gaiam's "eco conscious" cardboard cases, include a 48-page booklet entitled "My Stress Solution."  This booklet is not specific to the particular condition address in the DVD (although it does include a quick overview of the major points inside the back cover), but it provides an excellent overview of the basic principles of stress management.  I am a psychologist, and this booklet reviews the same strategies which I would use with my clients, including changing negative thought patterns, dealing with anger, learning to say no, improving communication, incorporating leisure activities, and finding ways to relax.

This DVD offers several nice meditation and yoga options for IBS.  The yoga practice is fairly active (more so than the other Mayo Clinic Solutions DVDs I've tried) and may be quite challenging for those brand new to yoga.  The educational information is presented in a clear and concise manner, and it offers clear guidelines to assist IBS sufferers with what can be a confusing and embarrassing condition.

© 2009 Beth Cholette

Link: Gaiam website

Beth Cholette, Ph.D., is a clinical psychologist who provides psychotherapy to college students at SUNY Geneseo. She is also a Top 100 Reviewer at Amazon.com and the official yoga media reviewer for iHanuman.com.